Heading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft next week, the Nashville Predators currently hold six picks, including the 210th selection in round seven. Nashville’s seventh-round recent history has not been kind to them, producing players like Evan Smith, Adam Smith, Jacob Paquette, and Milan Kloucek. But, Juuso Pärssinen (taken the last time Nashville picked 210th overall), is looking to buck that trend, and Gunnarwolfe Fontaine and Chase McLane could also be nice pick-ups.
Below, I’ve taken a look at four potential picks for the Predators in round seven next Friday and why they could be a good fit in the pipeline.
Nashville’s Draft Board: Round 7
|Samuel Eklund||D||Leksands IF J20||J20 Nationell||2003||DY+1|
|Zach Bookman||D||Brooks Bandits||AJHL||2002||DY+2|
|Theo Keilin||F||Skellefteå AIK J20||J20 Nationell||2003||DY|
|Rodwin Dionicio||D||Niagara IceDogs||OHL||2004||DY|
Leksands IF J20 (J20 Nationell) | D | 6’0”, 154 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Leksands IF J18||J18 Elit||32||3||11||14|
|2020-21||Leksands IF J18||J18 Region||10||0||2||2|
|2021-22||Leksands IF J20||J20 Nationell||45||7||22||29|
Eklund was one of the youngest players eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and, after going unpicked, is now on the older side after his DY+1 season. The scrawny defender made the jump full-time to the J20 level in Sweden this year, picking up seven goals and 29 points in 45 games for Leksands IF J20. Those 29 points ranked him second on his team in scoring and fifth amongst U19 defenders in the J20 Nationell this season.
I’m not certain how accurate Eklund’s listed weight of 154 lbs is anymore, but he’s far from having a bulky stature. Regardless, he has a decent reach with his stick and that helps define his game as one complete with an above-average number of puck touches. Eklund’s skating isn’t perfect; his extension can devolve into a heel kick, and he takes time to find his proper knee bend, limiting acceleration. But, he works hard to get his stick on every puck that comes his way. If he doesn’t win a puck battle, his stick is immediately blocking a passing lane; if he does win one, he makes a rapid, smart play to advance play up to his teammates.
In front of the net, Eklund’s active stick persists as he’s not strong enough yet to be regularly pushing opponents out of high-danger areas. He often maintains good defensive positioning, but I do have some concerns about the consistency of his pivot timing when defending against the rush.
In the offensive zone, Eklund doesn’t pinch a ton but sometimes he’s aggressive and jumps down below the dots. He can buy time for teammates with his creative puck control, and his shooting skill is fine enough. Seventh-round picks are lottery tickets, and with Eklund, you’re betting on increased size and strength unlocking another level of offensive ability and a more imposing defender in his own end.
Brooks Bandits (AJHL) | D | 5’10”, 176 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
Zach Bookman is in his last year of draft eligibility, and the Merrimack-bound defender certainly made the most of it. After putting up nearly a point per game in a limited showing last season, Bookman was third in scoring on a dominant Brooks team with 102 points in just 55 games. He was also third in AJHL scoring (as the Bandits’ top four scorers were the league's top four scorers). The AJHL’s second-highest scoring defender—Josh Zinger—had just 49 points in 61 games in 2021-22.
I can’t quite get a read on when Bookman will come off the board next week, but the 5’10” blueliner has turned plenty of heads. He was electric on offense this year, providing a creative attack from the point with crisp, accurate passes, creative plays to the net, and patience with the puck.
In transition, Bookman was found frequently flying up the ice, head up and not overhandling the puck. I found he defaulted to a lazy shot on net after too many of those rushes, especially when he has the skill to circle the zone and set up a scoring chance like he often did off of established offensive-zone possession. Nevertheless, Bookman was hard to knock off the puck and manipulative with it too; he rarely hesitated to dart down towards the dots and force opponents to challenge his skill.
Defense is where you may find the most concerns with Bookman’s game. He’s an okay skater but has below-average acceleration and just average power in his backward C-cuts. Against AJHL competition, he shut down many chances in the top third of the defensive zone, but I worry about how well that will translate against better NCAA competition. Nashville hasn’t shied away from overage USHL players before, and Bookman could be another smart prospect to take a chance on.
Skellefteå AIK J20 (J20 Nationell) | F | 5’11”, 181 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
|2019-20||Västerås IK J18||J18 Elit||30||19||30||49|
|2020-21||Västerås IK J20||J20 Nationell||15||2||15||17|
|2021-22||Skellefteå AIK J20||J20 Nationell||42||30||16||46|
Keilin is one of the oldest first-year eligible skaters in this year’s draft class, missing the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by just six days. The 5’11” forward also made the jump full-time to the J20 level in Sweden this year and even earned his first SHL call-up. In 42 appearances with Skellefteå’s J20 squad, Keilin led the squad with 30 goals and finished third with 46 points. Among all draft-eligible J20 Nationell forwards, Keilin was third in goals and seventh in total points. His 0.5238 even-strength, primary points per game ranked 14th among that group.
Keilin is slippery in the offensive zone. He’s constantly in search of soft spots behind the defense where he can deflect a point shot into the net or clean up an easy rebound. When he’s not going undetected, he’ll spin off defenders to get open for a pass or challenge them directly with his above-average puck skills on a path to the net.
The Västerås native times breakouts well and builds speed leading into the neutral zone, but sometimes he can fade to the perimeter if he doesn’t get an outlet pass. He takes good angles when forechecking in the offensive zone and pressuring in the neutral zone, but I’d like to see him take two or three more heavy strides to the puck carrier before skating into a glide. Defensively, Keilin projects more as a winger than a center.
With size not on his side, you’re betting that some added strength can really boost Keilin’s okay but not above-average skating profile to help him achieve more offensive dynamism.
Niagara IceDogs (OHL) | D | 6’2”, 207 lbs. | OTF Rank: NA
A 6’2” Swiss defender...sound familiar? Make no mistake, Rodwin Dionicio is no Roman Josi, but he is an intriguing, raw prospect who shined at times on an awful Niagara team this year. Dionicio started the year with a scoreless four-game performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but he progressed into a solid freshman season in the OHL. Dionicio’s 31 points in 57 games were tied for sixth on the IceDogs in scoring and second among defenders. He finished the season sixth among draft-eligible OHL defenders in scoring but just seven of his 31 points were primary ones scored at even strength.
Dionicio is a smart blueliner who packs a big punch in his 207-pound frame. He’s a decent puck handler for his size and can make forecheckers miss with simple but effective dekes and accurate outlet passes. In the offensive zone, he excels at small-area passing, staring down pressure along the blue line to eventually help the puck get to the net through high-to-low passes or heavy point shots.
At the other end of the ice, Dionicio’s mobility is just okay. His skating mechanics lack the knee bend necessary for true NHL pace, and his crossover steps and turns can be quite lumbering. These characteristics limit his lateral movements and expose his pivot timing against faster opponents. With a full head of steam, his skating finds its form, but he won’t have that time and space at higher levels. When he can match the speed of opponents, he uses his bruising physicality to separate them from the puck and deliver clean open-ice hits.
Dionicio is very much a project pick but most of the foundations of his game are already very sound. With some work on his skating and more complex puck decisions, he could make something of himself in the pros.